When it first kicked off in 1982, only a few stars showed up to the mid-day event meant to honor them. But within about 10 years, the luncheon has picked up steam; last year, the event set a new record: 150 of the 188 nominees arrived, with 18 of the 20 actor nominees in attendance, Variety reports. (Even Deadline hails the invite-only event as "unquestionably one of the highlights of any awards season"). This year, about 140 attendees showed up.
Though the event is mostly just a "feel-good , ‘everyone’s still a winner’ " pat on the back for nominees, awards strategists took the opportunity to gauge Oscar reactions in Q&A sessions, as ballots go out on Friday for the final vote. The stars who generated the most buzz at the insider event were "Beasts of the Southern Wild's" 9 year-old best actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, "Argo's" Ben Affleck (who has been shut out of the best director category although his film is a front-runner for best picture) and "Life of Pi" special visual effects nominee Bill Westenhofer.
Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at email@example.com.